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Branden’s "Vision of Ayn Rand" as “Official Objectivism”


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#1 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 02:30 PM

On another thread, I made some comments about the following statement by a former student at ARI’s Objectivist Graduate Center:

Objectivism, as both a systematized philosophy and a movement, exists because of Dr. [Leonard] Peikoff.”

According to Stephen Boydstun, Yaron Brook, ARI’s executive director, recently made a similar claim. Stephen says: "The proposition that without Peikoff’s efforts Objectivism as a systematized philosophy would not exist was a proposition put forward by Brook last summer."

I consider this evidence of an attempt by the teachers at the OGC to completely rewrite Objectivist history. It is an effort to erase any and all contributions by Nathaniel Branden to Objectivism.

In 1958, Nathaniel Branden began offering a lecture course on “The Basic Principles of Objectivism” at Nathaniel Branden Institute. This was the first detailed, systematic presentation of Objectivism. NBI, as an institution founded for the purpose of teaching and propagating the Objectivist philosophy, launched the Objectivist movement.

Having corrected that obvious bit of ARI foolishness, it suddenly dawns on me that this fact of history has a rather interesting implication.

Leonard Peikoff is well known for arguing, in his essay “Fact and Value,” that Objectivism became a “closed” system at the time of Ayn Rand’s death. “Official Objectivism”--according to Peikoff--is limited to the corpus of works on the Objectivist philosophy approved by Ayn Rand prior to her death. Although I disagree with such nonsense—Ayn Rand made clear that no single person could fully work out a philosophical system in their lifetime—Peikoff’s position regarding “closed Objectivism” leads to a fascinating logical consequence—a consequence Peikoff will not like and for which he may well need his tap-dancing shoes.

During the many years of their association, Ayn Rand considered Nathaniel Branden much more of an authority on Objectivism than Leonard Peikoff. Prior to repudiating him, she elevated Branden to a status equal to herself and designated him as her intellectual heir. She never gave Peikoff (or anyone else) similar status. Peikoff claims to be Rand’s new “intellectual heir,” but this has been shown to be a pretense with no factual basis. (Peikoff: The Great Pretender) In addition, it is an historical fact that Ayn Rand repeatedly banished Peikoff to 'Objectivist Siberia' for making statements that she found utterly contemptible and contrary to Objectivism. We have every reason to question whether she ever felt Peikoff truly qualified as an expert on her philosophy.

Ayn Rand gave her explicit, unqualified approval to the content of Branden’s “Basic Principles” course at NBI. The original ‘Basic Principles of Objectivism’ course now exists in book form: The Vision of Ayn Rand. The book is a literal transcript of the original lectures. Therefore, according to Peikoff’s “closed Objectivism” criteria, The Vision of Ayn Rand is a reliable and accurate systematic presentation of Objectivism.

In fact, of the two comprehensive, systematic presentations of Objectivism in book form, only one meets Peikoff’s criteria of “official Objectivism.” Rand fully and unqualifiedly approved every word of Branden’s “Basic Principles” course, and—to repeat--VOAR is a literal transcript of those recorded lectures. In contrast, by Peikoff’s own admission, Rand had to correct multiple errors in his original course on “The Philosophy of Objectivism.” OPAR was largely based on Peikoff’s own Objectivism lectures, but is not a literal transcript, so we have no basis to conclude that she gave official approval to one word of it.

With the exception of Branden’s later essay, “The Benefits and Hazards of The Philosophy of Ayn Rand,” all of the philosophical material in VOAR was officially approved by Ayn Rand as consistent with Objectivism. Because it was written after her death and is not a literal transcript, exactly none of the material in OPAR was ever officially endorsed by Ayn Rand.

According to Peikoff’s criterion of material approved by Ayn Rand before her philosophy became “closed,” VOAR is “official” Objectivism.

OPAR is not. :smile:

#2 Brant Gaede

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 03:36 PM

BPO was somewhat rewritten and redone for sale by Academic Associates and the transcriptions were done from those recordings Thus The Vision of Ayn Rand is only unofficially an official part of the Obectivist corpus sanctioned by Ayn Rand

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#3 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 04:58 PM

Excellent post, Dennis.

As you may know, I've never been able to get excited about the open/closed debate. It is of interest to historians who want to know what Rand thought about certain issues, just as historians might want to know what John Locke or Herbert Spencer thought about certain issues, but the controversy has never made sense to me as a philosophical issue. People should take from Rand whatever they consider to be of value, just as they would from any other philosopher.

Ghs

#4 daunce lynam

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 05:09 PM

Excellent post, Dennis.

As you may know, I've never been able to get excited about the open/closed debate. It is of interest to historians who want to know what Rand thought about certain issues, just as historians might want to know what John Locke or Herbert Spencer thought about certain issues, but the controversy has never made sense to me as a philosophical issue. People should take from Rand whatever they consider to be of value, just as they would from any other philosopher.

Ghs


Ah, but somebody has to inherit the Academy, the library, the extensive grounds.

-Pseusippos

#5 Dennis Hardin

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 05:58 PM

BPO was somewhat rewritten and redone for sale by Academic Associates and the transcriptions were done from those recordings Thus The Vision of Ayn Rand is only unofficially an official part of the Obectivist corpus sanctioned by Ayn Rand

--Brant


Some of the lectures were re-recorded by Branden for Academic Associates to improve the sound quality. I'm not aware that there were any significant changes in content.

#6 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:42 PM


BPO was somewhat rewritten and redone for sale by Academic Associates and the transcriptions were done from those recordings Thus The Vision of Ayn Rand is only unofficially an official part of the Obectivist corpus sanctioned by Ayn Rand

--Brant


Some of the lectures were re-recorded by Branden for Academic Associates to improve the sound quality. I'm not aware that there were any significant changes in content.


I agree. I used to know people who listened to both the original taped NBI lectures and to the Academic Associates LP versions, and they never noticed any differences. Changes, if there were any, were probably very minor and had to do with style rather than substance.

Ghs

#7 Reidy

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:47 PM

Even if the current print version is not the original systematization, the lectures were, and the claim at hand is false.

(Come to think of it, I don't see why the radio speech wouldn't qualify.)

#8 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:51 PM


Excellent post, Dennis.

As you may know, I've never been able to get excited about the open/closed debate. It is of interest to historians who want to know what Rand thought about certain issues, just as historians might want to know what John Locke or Herbert Spencer thought about certain issues, but the controversy has never made sense to me as a philosophical issue. People should take from Rand whatever they consider to be of value, just as they would from any other philosopher.

Ghs


Ah, but somebody has to inherit the Academy, the library, the extensive grounds.

-Pseusippos


Peikoff was Rand's legal heir, so he inherited enough money to do anything he wanted. As I have said many times before, Objectivism was originally a hybrid of a good philosophy and personal charisma, and, after Rand's death, I never thought that Peikoff would be able to sustain the charismatic element. But he did, to a certain extent, and the results were very unfortunate.

I decided to get drunk tonight, for the first time in months, so if anyone would like to make me write things I will later regret, now is the time. I estimate that I will be sober in around 3 hours, so don't miss this rare opportunity.


Ghs

#9 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:58 PM

BPO was somewhat rewritten and redone for sale by Academic Associates and the transcriptions were done from those recordings Thus The Vision of Ayn Rand is only unofficially an official part of the Obectivist corpus sanctioned by Ayn Rand

--Brant

"Somewhat rewritten?" Which lecture? What part?

I attended NBI lectures in both New York and Washington in 1967 and early 1968. It would be difficult for me to say that after a spread of 50 years, that the VOAR lectures are verbatim from the original "live" lectures. (Contrary to the opinions of some of its detracters, NBI was not a madrassa).

But, "photographic memory" over that time expanse is not required. The recorded lectures from Academic Associates were issued within less than 6 months of NBI's closing, so the time of actual comparison was not that long. I did not notice ny difference.

I think it is safe to say that, if Ayn Rand or her lawyers, had found a discrepancy between the two versions, they most likely would have threatened legal action for copyright violation against the Brandens and Academic Associates.
The only lecture(s) in The Vision of Ayn Rand that were "changed" (actually, they are replacements for two lectures, one by Rand on "The Nature and Purpose of Art," and the other, "Esthetics of the Visual Arts, by Mary Ann Rukavina)" are "Romanticism, Naturalism and the Novels of Ayn Rand" Which were adopted from Chapter III, "The Literary Method of Ayn Rand"l in Who Is Ayn Rand?(1962) (which of course, was approved by Ayn Rand, and would be considered as part of "official" Objectivism.

So, I think the VOAR lectures meets the qualifications that Rand made as to what, or is not, Official" Objectivism. Obviously, the Introduction and "Afterword" were added later.

#10 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:59 PM

I decided to get drunk tonight, for the first time in months, so if anyone would like to make me write things I will later regret, now is the time. I estimate that I will be sober in around 3 hours, so don't miss this rare opportunity.

And exactly what kind of drink do you indulge in on such an occasion? In PG Wodehouse's Mulliner stories the bar patrons are only identified by the drinks in their hands. So, a Whiskey and Splash will chime in, then a Pint of Bitter will retort, and finally a Hot Scotch and Lemon will restore peace.

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Mr_Mulliner
Prandium gratis non est

#11 Reidy

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:03 PM

Peikoff gave the lecture on god and atheism in the taped series I heard. He presumably wasn't on the AA audios.

#12 Selene

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:08 PM


I decided to get drunk tonight, for the first time in months, so if anyone would like to make me write things I will later regret, now is the time. I estimate that I will be sober in around 3 hours, so don't miss this rare opportunity.

And exactly what kind of drink do you indulge in on such an occasion? In PG Wodehouse's Mulliner stories the bar patrons are only identified by the drinks in their hands. So, a Whiskey and Splash will chime in, then a Pint of Bitter will retort, and finally a Hot Scotch and Lemon will restore peace.

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Mr_Mulliner


I'm guessing Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey maybe? Or, Tequila?
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#13 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:28 PM

I decided to get drunk tonight, for the first time in months, so if anyone would like to make me write things I will later regret, now is the time. I estimate that I will be sober in around 3 hours, so don't miss this rare opportunity.

And exactly what kind of drink do you indulge in on such an occasion? In PG Wodehouse's Mulliner stories the bar patrons are only identified by the drinks in their hands. So, a Whiskey and Splash will chime in, then a Pint of Bitter will retort, and finally a Hot Scotch and Lemon will restore peace. http://en.wikipedia....iki/Mr_Mulliner


I've never cared much for the taste of liquor, but when I decide to get seriously drunk I usually drink Tanqueray gin. I had four drinks this evening at a nearby bar called "Winners" -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- and I am now nursing a six pack of Samuel Adams beer.

Liquor, for me, is just another drug, so I use it with the same purposeful intent that I used other drugs years ago. My purpose tonight was to indulge in an orgy of self-pity. Five months ago the IRS began confiscating nearly half my income from the source (Cato), and I have been living on fumes ever since. Not even fumes, really, since I cannot pay all my bills. This afternoon I got a call from my landlady demanding $1200 in back rent or face eviction proceedings. So I did what any rational person would do: I got drunk and figured I would worry about things tomorrow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUT6mTq5ekM

Ghs

#14 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:30 PM

1) I think that this whole discussion of what is, and is not, "official" Objectivism is only necessary because of the unforunate efforts of some ARIans to attempt to rewrite the history of the development of this philosophy. This is an endeavor that will be a source of continual embarassment, because the ruse is easily discovered by anyone willing to investigate, and has already been exposed both here on OL, by Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and in the two recent biographies of Rand.

2) Outside of that, why does anyone care about what has, or does not have, Peikoff's imprimatur? This is very odd behavior for exponents of a philosophy that emphasizes reason, independence, self-esteem, integrity, individualism. .

#15 daunce lynam

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:31 PM



I decided to get drunk tonight, for the first time in months, so if anyone would like to make me write things I will later regret, now is the time. I estimate that I will be sober in around 3 hours, so don't miss this rare opportunity.

And exactly what kind of drink do you indulge in on such an occasion? In PG Wodehouse's Mulliner stories the bar patrons are only identified by the drinks in their hands. So, a Whiskey and Splash will chime in, then a Pint of Bitter will retort, and finally a Hot Scotch and Lemon will restore peace.

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Mr_Mulliner


I'm guessing Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey maybe? Or, Tequila?


Who cares? We haven't got much time here guys!

I can't imagine George writing something he would later regret, as his writing is ruthlessly honest, but maybe we can get him to write about stuff he would not normally write about.

George, are you really a fan of Rush Limbaugh? See my comment on his being installed with Truman and Twain in the state capitol. Truman said: "Fame is a vapor; popularity is an accident; money takes wings; those who cheer today may curse tomorrow; only one thing endures - character."

Sam Adams is good, for an American beer.

#16 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 07:38 PM

Peikoff gave the lecture on god and atheism in the taped series I heard. He presumably wasn't on the AA audios.

This issue was discussed extensively some years ago on OL (and is probably archived somewhere on this site). If I recall, Barbara Branden weighed-in as reiterating that the original NBI lecture of "The Concept of God" was done by Nathaniel, not Peikoff. She did add that occasionally, guest lecturers would subsititute for certain of the lectures, so Leonard was likely recruited to fill-in on certain occasions and on certain topics..

#17 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:02 PM

Although this is somewhat off topic, but since George makes reference to his essay on this issue,...

"The literature of nineteenth-century Voluntaryism is virtually unknown today, even among many libertarians. I can think of no argument against state education by modern libertarians that was not formulated, and often with more force and clarity, by the Voluntaryists" - George H. Smith, from his essay linked in his replies in this thread.

And for further, eye-opening, and startling (for me, anyway) evidence on how most (all?) of the positions that libertarians and Objectivists have argued for so eloquently,... were also made with equal force by Herbert Spencer, Auberon Herbert, and other British voluntaryists, and then were virtually forgotten!, see Men versus the State: Herbert Spencer and Late Victorian Individualism, by Michael W. Taylor (Claredon Press - Oxford, 1992).

The fact that most of these writers are now unknown, and their works forgotten (with the sole exception of Spencer, whose views are continually distorted), is, actually, rather scary!

#18 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:37 PM


I can't imagine George writing something he would later regret, as his writing is ruthlessly honest, but maybe we can get him to write about stuff he would not normally write about.


Have I ever explained my theory about why it is good to be an on-again, off-again Objectivist?

Ghs

#19 Brant Gaede

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:43 PM



I can't imagine George writing something he would later regret, as his writing is ruthlessly honest, but maybe we can get him to write about stuff he would not normally write about.


Have I ever explained my theory about why it is good to be an on-again, off-again Objectivist?

Ghs

Dodging bullets?

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#20 George H. Smith

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:55 PM

Whenever I have had too much to drink it is always fun to post on the Yahoo group JazzWestCoast (JWC). It is not unusual, to say the least, for jazz buffs to drink a lot during evening hours, as frequently witnessed by the erratic typing.

Shortly after I posted the video of Peggy Lee on this thread, I posted the following to JWC:


Rarely if ever have I seen anyone ask a question on JWC that
someone could not answer. So here is another trivia
question: Can anyone identify the guitarist in this old
video with Peggy Lee?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUT6mTq5ekM
Given Lee's stature at the time this clip was filmed, I
assume she worked with top-notch sidemen. But I have no idea
who this guitarist may be.
Ghs


Within five minutes I got the following response:


That could be Dave Barbour;pje of her husbands...(just a guess...but I'm
sure it is not Wes Montgomery.


For those of you jazz ignoramuses out there, Wes Montgomery was a black guy -- so I responded by mentioning a famous black guitarist who played for years with the Count Basie Orchestra.


Thanks, Bob. I think we can eliminate Grant Green as well.
8-)


Then another post appeared:


Definitely Dave Barbour!


Then, within a minute, the original responder said:


In a message dated 3/13/2012 10:12:22 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
smikro@comcast.net writes:
Thanks, Bob. I think we can eliminate Grant Green as well.
8-)
Ghs
------------
As well as Wan Hung, bass guitarist Lo of the Shaghaiwaiian Aloha
Serenaders and Aaron Shtupstein of the Israeli Guitar Quartet, The Four Skins,
Looking at the video again I'm fairly sure it's the Barbour of Seville.


All this happened within ten minutes.

Now, I have been a jazz buff since 1964, but I have not so much as heard of Dave Barbour. Have you even been around people, thinking you know a lot about a subject, only to learn that you are nothing more than a novice? That is me on JWC, a lesson in humility.

Ghs




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